During the Japanese Occupation, my Grandmother Siew, would set up traps to catch them. Each time she would catch three or four. Because she was a very meticulous worker, she would really pluck the feathers very well and my grandfather would savour the steamed Cheng Gie.
|Photo of Cheng Gie, from Sarikeians. Thanks.|
In another family story, my sixth uncle, Uncle Yu King found it quite hard to catch burong engkeruak in the muddy river banks of the Rajang River at the Hua Hong Ice Factory. The plank walk from the office and coolie quarters to the toilets was quite high up when the tide was low. He remembered how interested he was in catching the Cheng Gie for dinner. As a young boy he was enthusiastic about helping out with the family food supply. He caught one one day. Thinking that the bird had fainted, he placed the bird on the plank walk. By the time he climbed up to the plank walk, the bird had flown off!! Why didn't he think of tying the bird to his waist? He was too young to have the foresight, his sisters laughed!! It was not easy to catch birds for dinner, especially in the mud.
Today young boys and girls would no longer care to plunge themselves into a muddy walk to catch birds for dinner.
A civil servant I met recently has lots of tales to tell about Burong Engkeruak nowadays. He traps them fairly easily using his own methods. Each weekend he could get about 10 which he can sell in the market. If he has more, he will have some for himself. BBQ engkeruak is very very tasty he said.
Each time I see a Cheng Gie in my garden I would think of the hardships of my uncles and aunties during the Japanese Occupation. And remember the stories my Grandmother Siew told me about her own diligence in catching the small birds, just to give Grandfather some extra nourishment.
I think today, not many wives would go out in the jungle or mud flats to trap birds for their husbands.
Personally I have not ever eaten a roasted Cheng Gie in my life. Would you like to try one?